Do Video Games Normalize Concepts?

As someone who is afraid of guns in real life, for some reason I never really thought about why watching video games in which people shoot other people doesn’t bother me. That being said, I’d much rather play a fantasy game with swords, bows, or magic as my weapons. But I’ll happily watch my boyfriend play Titanfall and obliterate opposing players with flamethrowers and bullets.

A new game by Andy & Sophie, two high-school girls from New York, tries to examine why violence has been normalized in video games by identifying a subject that is a societal taboo at large, and certainly wouldn’t be found in many video games.

The game: Tampon Run.

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The game’s opening message is intriguing: “Most women menstruate for a large portion of their lives. It is, by all means, normal. Yet most people, women and men alike, feel uncomfortable talking about anything having to do with menstruation… Tampon run is a way of discussing the taboo in an accessible way. Instead of holding a gun, the runner holds tampons, and instead of shooting enemies, the runner throws tampons at them.”

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While I applaud their feminist message (as a proud feminist myself), and agree that menstruation doesn’t need to make anyone blush, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that video games themselves are able to normalize objects or ideas. I would argue that our gun-centric, second-amendment culture, and prevalence in the media of stories about violence (murder and assault), have made violence more “normalized” in our culture. Video games are more of a reflection of society than an agent for change or acceptance. Games with a social message, like Tampon Run, are more rare than the shoot-em-up style games that Tampon Run itself is critiquing.

So while a game about tampons will probably start more conversations about why menstruation is a taboo, I don’t think that menstruation will become a fixture in many video games, or other media, until our society at large has realized that periods or tampons aren’t such a big deal after all. Hopefully, this unique and quirky video game will be a first step in that direction.

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One thought on “Do Video Games Normalize Concepts?”

  1. What a thought provoking blog post. I think the question of whether or not video games are agents of social change or simply mirrors of society is really interesting. I propose that, like most media forms, they are both. What’s more, I think they can function as both simultaneously. For instance, Tampon Run clearly takes a stance on a troubling aspect of society, but also mirrors the structure of other video games and feminist media. I think video games, with their rapidly-increasing fan base and massive revenues, are in a unique position to act as agents of change. The technology is there, the audience is there, so now is the time where video games can start tapping into “issues” and have tremendous impact.

    -Emma

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